EVENT: SATURDAY, APRIL 5, 2003
At the end of World War II, there were 250,000 displaced Jewish refugees in Europe, among them many war orphans. There were very few immigration choices open to these survivors. Most had no homes to return to and there were few countries willing to admit them. In 1947 the Canadian government granted permission for 1,000 Jewish war orphans to enter Canada. The War Orphans Project prompted a search for eligible European orphans under the age of eighteen and facilitated their immigration to Canada.
One of the orphans, Robbie Waisman, is a volunteer with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and will be speaking about his experiences at the Museum at Campbell River on April 5.
I was fourteen years old when I was liberated from Buchenwald on April 11, 1945. I found my sister a few months later. She and I are the only survivors of our family. We all wanted to go home, but we remained in Buchenwald for about three months because there was nowhere else to go. The authorities had a hard time convincing us that we could not go home and that our homes were no longer there. In my case, they explained how dangerous it would be to go to Poland, where returning Jews had been attacked. I could not understand why people, other than the Nazis, wanted to kill us. It took us a long time to understand our circumstances.
I remember being told that no country in the world, except Palestine, wanted us. Nearly all of the orphans put their names on the list for Palestine, but getting into Palestine was made nearly impossible at the time by the British blockade. The two other options open to us were Canada or Australia. Australia was attractive to many of us because it was so far from Europe.
Getting into Canada was tough. The process was a very lengthy one and you had to be absolutely healthy. Wearing glasses was enough to disqualify you. I had all but given up hope when I finally got a letter accepting me into Canada.
I was seventeen when we landed in Halifax on December, 1948. On the trip west, I couldn't get over the immense space and the sparse settlements along the way. You could see forever. (printed with permission from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre)
The public is welcome, Saturday, April 5 at 1:30pm, to hear to Mr. Waisman recount the rest of his story, about making a life in, after surviving such a horrendous era. Cost for the lecture is $6.00 and includes admission to the travelling exhibit, Open Hearts - Closed Doors.. For more information, call the Museum at 287-3103.
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